I am a huge Dick Francis fan and I must say that the Felix Francis books have, up to this point, been something of a disappointment. While Dick was a master of characterization and plot development, Felix lacks the depth and talent of his father. However, in his newest novel, Damage, Felix Francis has stepped up his game and given us a novel well worth the read.
Our newest hero, Jeff Hinkley, is a talented investigator due to his photographic memory for faces and his diligence in undercover work. After serving a stint in Afghanistan as a hostage negotiator, he finds himself at age thirty working for the BHA or British Horseracing Authority. We immediately take a liking to Jeff whose brain is constantly whirring as he deals with a sick sister, a self centered brother-in-law, and a girlfriend who may or may not be future wife material. Then there is his actual work which involves doped horses, poisoned jockeys, extortionists, and murder – not necessarily in that order. The question is whether Jeff is up to the task of narrowing down the list of suspects to the actual perpetrator or losing his job and starting his life anew. This book takes us on an interesting adventure through numerous twists and turns until the unexpected conclusion.
Although, after completing Damage, I had a few questions about some lose ends which were somewhat confusing or open ended, the book left me eager to continue reading. I would truly enjoy a sequel with the same characters picking up where this story ended. I feel that is the mark of a good book, when the reader becomes emotionally invested enough to ask for more. However, I felt the conclusion was rather abrupt and not altogether satisfying so perhaps that is why I want an additional story.
Either way, this is by far Felix Francis’ best book yet and I hope he continues to improve since the name Dick Francis stands for an excellence worthy of emulation. Felix, your father’s fans are rooting for you. I give this book four stars.